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Distinguished Descendant of the Selkirk Settlers

by Paul Yuzyk

Manitoba Pageant, January 1963, Volume 8, Number 2

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

Please direct inquiries to webmaster@mhs.mb.ca.

It was not until the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Selkirk Settlers that it came to light that Prime Minister John George Diefenbaker is a descendant of the first Scotsmen who settled in the Red River Valley. Our Prime Minister's Christian names, John and George, perpetuate on his mother's side the memory of his Canadian-born grandfather, John Bannerman, who in turn was the son of George Bannerman. Mr. Diefenbaker's great grandfather, George Bannerman, of Kildonan, Scotland, arrived with the second group of Selkirk Settlers on board the "Prince of Wales" at Churchill in August, 1813, and was therefore one of the earliest pioneers in Western Canada.

Photo: The Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker and Dr. Paul Yuzyk on the occasion of the Selkirk memorial dinner.

To commemorate this great anniversary, the Manitoba Historical Society held a well-attended banquet at the historic Fort Garry Hotel on October 20, 1962, with the president of the Society, Prof. Paul Yuzyk, as chairman. Not only was the Society greatly honoured by the presence of the Prime Minister and Mrs. Olive Diefenbaker, but it also honoured this distinguished descendant of the Selkirk Settlers by presenting him with a special scroll (see photo on another page); this ceremony was performed by Douglas Kemp, past-president of the Society. A beautiful bouquet of flowers was presented to Mrs. Diefenbaker by three-year-old Clara Elizabeth Bannerman, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. J. A. Bannerman, distant relatives of the Prime Minister.

After the introduction by Prof. W. L. Morton, Head of the Department of History, University of Manitoba, and a former president of the Society, Prime Minister Diefenbaker delivered an eloquent address, which will be published in the transactions of the Manitoba Historical Society. In his speech, he described his recent trip to Kildonan, Scotland, noting the fact that Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, was born about twenty miles from the birthplace of George Bannerman and related with great emotion the trials and hardships of the Selkirk Settlers and their great contribution to the opening up of the West. With his profound knowledge of the history of the time and his delightful oratory, Prime Minister Diefenbaker gave the audience a rare treat, which will ever live in the memories of those who heard him at the banquet or on the radio network.

Page revised: 1 July 2009

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